The Houston Texans need to add a veteran running back to the mix and their strategy for using Duke Johnson is quite concerning. What’s going on? Let’s look.
Houston Texans fans — in just two more days, this team will take on their last opponent of the preseason with the Los Angeles Rams flying into town to take on our guys at NRG Stadium. It’s expected that no starters will play this game because traditionally, this will be the game for guys that are on the bubble to make the roster.
Many fans don’t watch this game because of that reason but I love the story of the players that are giving their all to try to be a part of an NFL roster. Bill O’Brien will have to trim the roster down to 53 men before the start of the season and there will be some tough decisions that will have to be made, especially for guys that have been flashing on this team throughout training camp.
But typically if I guy is flashing, that certainly means that other teams are watching and it could give them an opportunity to hone their craft elsewhere.
Just look at former fifth-round pick Roderick Johnson — he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2017, signed a rookie deal but was cut last season. The Houston Texans had their radar on him and stashed him on their practice squad. He has now developed into what I think will be the starting left tackle for the Houston Texans just one season later.
Being cut from an NFL roster is never the end of the world for a player as it makes them grind much harder for another opportunity.
But speaking of opportunity, with the season-ending injury to Lamar Miller, there’s an opening for the top running back of the Houston Texans. Will they go out and grab a proven veteran to fill the spot or utilize the resources that they have?
Here’s what O’Brien told the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson about what they plan to do and a lot of it will involve Duke:
"“I think with us he’ll be used in a lot of different ways, and he’s had a lot of snaps. He’s been out there playing a lot. … I don’t think it’ll be him exclusively. We’ve got a lot of other guys at that position that we can mix and match with.”"
O’Brien also added this:
"“I wouldn’t call him a third-down back,” O’Brien said. “I know that he is a substituted back, so in the past he’s played a lot against sub defenses, but you can see sub defenses on first, second or third downs."
Bill said the right things about Duke, especially for a guy that has just healed from a hamstring
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injury. He should not have a heavy workload because with his history of maladies through his career, it would be wise not to run him into the ground.
However, I’m afraid that if the Houston Texans don’t go out and sign somebody, that Duke’s fate will be the opposite.
Wilson has reconfirmed that Duke’s workload won’t be heavy but I still have serious concerns that this strategy will backfire, if the last men standing in the running backs’ group — it could be Karan Higdon, Damarea Crockett or Cullen Gillaspia and possibly Josh Ferguson — don’t live up to expectations.
This will ensure that a player as talented as he is preserved through the season and we can get him through 16 games. Yes, I’m aware that there’s some risk with Ajayi coming off a torn ACL but I’d willing to bet that he would make a solid comeback, especially if it were for the Houston Texans.
We’ll have to see — let’s keep an eye out!
Duke rushed 40 times for 201 yards — 5.0 yards per attempt — along with catching 47 balls off 62 targets for 429 yards through 16 games — two starts — in 2018.